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“And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering.” 

“But unto Cain and unto his offering He had not respect.” 

So Moses speaks in regard to the attitude of God towards Cain and Abel when they brought their offerings unto Him. Of this we read in Genesis 4:4, 5

You will recall that we were dealing with the matter of respect and obedience and the relation between them. 

We cited the case of Harold whose little four year old son was allowed to call his father by his first name instead of showing him respect as his father. 

Examples of entirely different behavior of children towards their parents as they are revealed to us on the pages of Holy Writ were quoted. We noted that Joseph even after he became chief ruler in Egypt under Pharaoh so that his father was subject to him in many earthly matters still showed respect to his father and called him such.

We had only begun to examine those passages in Scripture wherein the word respect appears in our English translation. Having said a few things about those passages wherein respect of persons is mentioned and condemned, we referred you to that passage above in Genesis 4:4, 5 wherein God is presented as having respect unto Abel and to his offering and not unto Cain and unto his offering. 

We desire now to pick up the thread there and continue to consider this matter of respect and obedience. 

The word Moses uses in Genesis 4:4 in itself means more than to look. God looked at that offering of Abel. He took notice of it. But as the English translation has it, He had respect unto it. That means more. It means that He approved of it and looked upon it with favor. The actual word that Moses uses hast the primary meaning of dividingor discerning. It is, then, a look whereby a distinction is made between Cain’s and Abel’s offerings. It is a look that sees more than that which meets the eye. It is a deeper evaluation than that which results from a look at outward things. God looked at the heart and judged Abel’s’ offering to be a worthy expression of his faith and desire for salvation. He looked at the heart of Cain as well as at the thing which he offered and judged it to be full of wickedness and unbelief. We maintain, therefore, that in respect one always judges an individual or object to be worthy of honor, of confidence, of acceptance or the like. 

When we respect someone we pass judgment upon that individual from the viewpoint as to whether he should be honored, esteemed, trusted and served or not. The element of discerning of dividing surely is in that word respect and therefore the translation here in Genesis 4:4, 5 is expressive of the meaning of the original text. For whether we show respect or not, whether we are respectful or disrespectful, we do these things because of an inner judgment which the outward deeds reflect. 

We have another passage in the Old Testament Scriptures wherein it is stated that God had respect. We read in Exodus 2:25, “And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them.” Here we have an entirely different word from the one in Genesis 4 which is also translated “respect.” It means “to know, to be acquainted with.” It is interesting also to note that this is said in connection with the statement that “God looked upon the children of Israel.” For, as we remarked last time, the word respect is made up of the Latin preposition “re” which means “back or again” and the verb “to look.” Respect and disrespect depend upon how people look to us and are determined by our judgment upon them in the light of what we see of them. 

Harold’s little boy saw him occasionally as his father, as someone upon whom he depended and even in a sense as one to whose wishes he had to submit. As we wrote last time, he pleaded with his father to go down and get something to eat. As a little child without money of his own, without the ability to read a menu in the diner, he felt the need of his father and in that sense looked up to him. There was a difference between him and his father which he could not help but see. He was simply incapable of escaping the fact that there was a difference between him and his father that was deeper than the eye could see. When he called his father by his first name, however, he was behaving as one who knew his father only according to that which the eyes of Harold’s equals see him. 

Harold’s wife no doubt called him such before their children. Harold’s brothers and sisters called him by the first name. His friends did so. And all this Harold’s little boy heard, of course. It would be quite impossible to keep him from it. But Harold never instructed his son—and for that matter his wife did not either—to look upon him in any other way than these brothers, sisters, wife and friends who were as to position and age on the same level with Harold. 

Incidentally, it may seem a little humorous and odd to hear a man call his wife “mother;” but it surely does not encourage the children td show disrespect for their mothers. I would a hundred times rather see and hear a man—be his wife five or ten years younger than he—say to her when the children are present, “Well, mother, shall we go home now?” than to hear Harold’s little boy say, “Let’s go downstairs, Harold. Come on, Harold I’m hungry.” The same holds true, of course, for the wife calling her husband “Father” in the hearing of the children. 

At this particular P.T.A. meeting wherein the matter of respect was treated briefly on a panel discussion that dealt with other matters that had to do with the relationship between the teachers and the parents one of the ministers present made a remark that certainly points in the right direction. He said that it was unthinkable for him and he could not possibly get it across his lips to call his elders in the church by their first names. By elders he meant not those who were older than he in the congregation but the officebearers in the office of elder in his consistory. He said that he could not call them Pete, John and Bill but always Mister so and so. We would go a step further. As parents we ought never to speak of these elders in the church to our children in any other way than in respect for the office. We ought to teach our children to see them with a deeper insight than that which comes to the natural eye. God has made them to be different when He ordains them into the office in His Church; and for their work’s sake that difference ought to be seen and maintained by us and by our children. How much more beautiful and spiritually proper it is to refer to them when we speak to our children as Elder so-and-so and Deacon so-and-so.

We live in a world that wants to get away from all formality and class distinction. Respect of persons, to be sure, Scripture condemns. But we must be very careful that our desire for informality and removal of class distinction does not become disrespect. For disrespect is sin. Paul writes to the church at Rome, “Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom is due; fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.” And disrespect is violating the fifth commandment which demands that we honor our fathers and our mothers and all those who are in authority over us. 

Respect means dealing with others in a special way. It means that we see that difference between us and them which God has been pleased to bring about and that we are willing to honor them and show them deference because of His sovereign good pleasure to place us in a position of inferiority over against them. 

By having us born to certain parents God realizes a position of inferiority between us and them that remains as long as we and they live. We never outgrow the fact that we owe our existence to them. By ordaining officebearers in His Church God realizes a position of inferiority between us and then which He recognizes as long as they are in office. They have the spiritual rule over us. The same holds true of the governor, the king or president, the policeman, the master or “boss” for whom we work. And He demands that we look at them in that light, deal with them accordingly and do not behave in such a way that we deny that difference which He has brought into being. 

It stands to reason that the respect God has differs from the respect which is demanded of us to those He places over us. Essentially the idea is the same, as we have seen. When God showed respect to Abel’s offering He looked at it far more deeply than Cain who saw his own offering as a good thing. God judged that offering of Abel and approved of it. When we show respect it is also due to a deeper look than that of the outward appearance reveals to the natural eye: Respect is the result of judgment of inner qualities or realities. Bui: God does not have any superiors whose honor He must respect. He is God. And that means that there is not and cannot be any one who is either above Him or even on the same level with Him. All are under Him and all, therefore, must respect Him. All must render Him honor and obedience. But He shows deference to no one. 

When He had respect unto Abel and to his offering He approved of Abel and of his offering; but He did not show deference unto him. He did deem his offering as worthy of acceptance and Abel as worthy of being considered to be a believer. This, however, was due to the fact that He had given that faith unto Abel whereby he brought unto God an “excellent sacrifice.” The respect God showed unto Abel was due to the fact that Christ is the Lamb of God Who was slain for the sins of God’s people and due to the fact that now in Him the elect are worthy of the blessings of salvation. Thus we read in Revelation 3:4, “Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.” And again in Luke 20:35, “But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.” Yet this respect God has for His people is a respect for His Own works in them. It is not due to a judgment of them as they are in themselves. Then His attitude would be one of eternal wrath and indignation. Then He would have no more respect for them than He has for Cain and for his offering. But seeing us again, seeing us as we are in Christ He deals with us in a special way and bestows blessedness upon us. 

But among men there can be respect for superiors because God does make some to be superiors over others in one way or another. Even, then, however, we do not respect them for what they are in themselves but for what God has made them to be in relation to us. Often they behave so that it is difficult to have any respect for them; but for God’s sake we still do honor them by obeying them and dealing with them as being our superiors. Respect for the authorities, respect for our parents, respect for the offices in the Church is respect for God Who alone is worthy of our praise and honor. 

Respect for those whom God has placed over us in walking in His fear.

Only as we fear God will we respect Him by respecting those whom He has placed over us. 

J.A.H.